A couple of days after Google announced its plans to support a cross-social network, open "platform" with Linked-In and Frendster, the WaPo features an update on their mobile progress to champion WiMax and other open standards on mobile. While I am always cautious about collosal growth and expansion of a company ("absolute power corrupts...'), I am secretly wishing Google could give the cable companies a run for their money. That's the closed system that needs some serious "opening".
Google launched an inititiative to make it easier for developers to create applications that will work across participating social networks. So far the participants include: Friendster, Hi5, LinkedIn, Ning, Plaxo, Viadeo and Oracle. Oh, forgot to mention, Google's own Orkut which stands to benefit considerably. Here's how Michael Arrington described it:
"It is a set of common APIs that application developers can use to create applications that work on any social networks (called “hosts”) that choose to participate.
What they haven’t done is launch yet another social network platform. As more and more of these platforms launch, developers have difficult choices to make. There are costs associated with writing and maintaining applications for these social networks. Most developers will choose one or two platforms and ignore the rest, based on a simple cost/benefit analysis.
Google wants to create an easy way for developers to create an application that works on all social networks. And if they pull it off, they’ll be in the center, controlling the network....
...OpenSocial is a set of three common APIs, defined by Google with input from partners, that allow developers to access core functions and information at social networks:
- Profile Information (user data)
- Friends Information (social graph)
- Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)
Hosts agree to accept the API calls and return appropriate data. Google won’t try to provide universal API coverage for special use cases, instead focusing on the most common uses. Specialized functions/data can be accessed from the hosts directly via their own APIs."
Smart, big move. The two 'marquee' names on the partner list need this. Linkedin is on the run from Facebook. It amazes me how quickly Facebook went from being the place for college students to the place for young people to the place for professionals. It makes perfect sense when you think about the similarities of our affinity for our college tribe and workplace tribe. Friendster just needs to break out of the Phillipines.
I spoke with one established, special-audience social network yesterday and they remain on the fence. I doubt we will see the Gathers, eons, and Bebos jumping on board this initiative until they may be forced to by market pressures.
The common platform thing will be a solid for advertisers. Developers will now be able to create applications (e.g. widgets et al) that reliably work across networks. This will make it easier to leverage several to "reach" audiences.
Open - mobile
Google's talks with Sprint and T-Mobile to outfit handsets with Google software is just the beginning. The Google handset continues to circulate around the rumour mill. But the real opportunity is both WiMax and open platforms for handsets. Kim Hart and Zachary Goldfarb's article in today's Washington Post has a great paragraph (several actually):
"Customizing handsets with a Google-powered operating system would rewrite the traditional wireless business model. Today's wireless carriers and handset manufacturers largely determine which applications consumers can access with their cellphones. Google aims to loosen those restraints by introducing a system that would be compatible with third-party features and services. In other words, software companies could design new features to work with Google's software. ...
...The introduction of Google phones would spur the kinds of mobile innovations seen abroad, in particular in Asia, where people regularly watch television on their cellphones, swipe cell phones at vending machines and take a picture of a special bar code to get a download of more information, said Charles S. Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research. New features might include video chat and GPS that takes advantage of Google Maps software, he said."
Is "open" a trojan horse that will lead to global domination and badness for consumers? Or is it consumers' ticket out of the servitude we find our selves with closed systems? Again, I can't help wondering what it would be like to have an open cable system (I have had some "issues" lately with my MSO).